Thursday, November 4, 2021

Assiniboia Downs The Insider E-Newsletter

Vol. 16 No. 37 (Issue #814)

By Ivan Bigg


Weekly Horseplayer Report and Fun Stuff

and, remember, if you don’t receive The Insider in the usual way,
you can always find it--and past columns--at

This is Bigg’s final Insider

So this is sayonara -- Ivan Bigg’s columns come to an end today after almost 16 years -- 5,698 days, 814 columns. Whew! What’s going to take over that hole in my brain?

Thanks to those who pleaded with me to continue or wished me well. I’ll still be around the track handicapping and enjoying the Saturday morning “I won bigger” group discussions at 10:30 a.m. (C’mon out and say hello!)

The truth of the matter is I am equally passionate about gardening. Before my race column-writing days I wrote a locally best-selling booklet on starting seedlings under lights, operated a gardening company that introduced innovative products, won many awards for home landscaping including best in the city. Now I’m guest editor of a gardening annual that requires me to make an online presentation this Sunday.

Now it’s time to wish YOU the very best in racing, handicapping and your life in general. Hit ‘em big and hit ‘em often! Start out by crushing the ‘Cup this weekend. And best regards to whatever fills this space in future weeks.

  • 10 CHANCES TO WIN $100: ASD will deposit $100 into the HPI account of 10 players who bet at least $40 on each of the two Breeders’ Cup days. They will be random draws. Wagers must be made through your HPI account.
  • FREE PROGRAMS Printed programs and DRF for both Breeders’ Cup days are now available FREE at ASD (VLT cage) and off-track at Pembina, Quest, Windsor, Green Brier and Rookies locations
  • GET 3% CASH BACK BONUS if you bet at least $1,000 during the two Breeders’ Cup Days. Maximum rebate $300. ($2.10 payoff bets are ineligible). Wagers must be made through your HPI account.


Table for six: $10,000 U.S.

“You’d better be sitting down for this,” Les “Longshot” Buzzell told The Insider from San Diego this week where he and five friends will be attending the Breeders’ Cup races Friday and Saturday. “A table for six cost me $10,000 U.S. But I’m sure it will be worth it. It’s once-in-a-lifetime.”

The table is in the exclusive second-floor Stretch Run Grill overlooking the Del Mar stretch. The other five people at his table will be three other Winnipeggers and two from Arizona. The Winnipeggers include ASD jockey agent Dave Brockhill, a former race-caller at ASD, Dean Fletcher, and race fan Mike Krakalovich.

We might even see the guys in the Winner’s Circle during Friday’s televised race coverage! “For the $10,000 we get to eat and drink as much as we want for the two days and get our pictures taken in the Winner’s Circle with the winner of one of Friday’s Breeders’ Cup races.” Buzzell, who owns a railway signals company in Winnipeg, said.

Yesterday they were playing golf ($250 U.S. each) at the legendary Torrey Pines golf course overlooking the Pacific Ocean. See Buzzell teeing off here. (He shot an 88.)

Will Buzzell recapture some of the costs of the trip at the betting windows? Regular Insider readers know he’s a longshot player who has done well in past Breeders’ Cups. “Email me anything worth knowing about the races,” Buzzell requested. Sure will, Les, sure will. Knock ‘em dead!


Bullet briefs . . .

  • It's Horseplayer Xmas! 38th Breeders' Cup launches tomorrow at 4:50 p.m. CT
  • Will Bella Sofia--working up a storm--knock off 3-5 Gamine in Fillies & Mares sprint?
  • Uh-oh! Clocker cites negatives for favourite Letruska in Breeders' Cup Distaff
  • Del Mar reduces superfecta wagers to 20-cents for this year's Breeders' Cup races
  • Winnipeg cited as "Intelligent Community of the Year." Turn those smarts into profits!
  • Big-hearted trainer, mother of former ASD top jockey, dies
FREE PRESS RACING COLUMNIST GEORGE WILLIAMS WINS OCTOBER TOURNEY: You’ve known him as the colourful racing writer for the Winnipeg Free Press. Now know George Williams as October’s top ASD handicapper. He won the third-last Player’s Choice handicapping tournament of the year Saturday with a bankroll of $129.70, about $29 more than a handicapper extraordinaire from the past, Trevor Phelps, who produced a bankroll of $101. Doug Evans, the winner of a trip to Las Vegas five years ago, was third with $97 followed by Scott Anderson with $91.90 and Myron Fedoruk with $81.20. They share $1,750 in prize money. They made $2 win/place/show wagers on 10 horses.

George, who had won two other tournaments over the years, said these were his top two picks:
  • Sharp Starr (16-1) in race 8 at muddy Belmont. “She was a past favourite who had gone off form but was returning from a long layoff with a trainer who was 15% off the layoff and 26% sprint to route. She was also 1-1-1 in the mud. Rider Jose Ortiz had 36% wins with trainer.”
  • Bode's Tipsy (17-1) in race 7 at Woodbine: “Ran ‘gamely’ in three of his last four races, including one at the 7-furlong distance of this race. Also had minor trouble in his previous start and was cutting back from 1 1/16-miles. Trainer was 20% on the route-to-sprint angle.”
His picks in the Breeders’ Cup?Tarnawa should outclass the field in the Breeders' Cup Turf, as she did last year. I'll have Hot Rod Charlie on my tickets in the Classic. He's one of my all-time favourites. This should be one of the best Classics in years.”
Click to enlarge.

Want highlights for the next 10 days? Click calendar.
What tracks are racing in November? Find out here.
What are today’s $$$ carryovers? See them here.
When do they play? Bombers, Jets.

Do you have your new HPIbet account card that replaces the previous HPI card and the ASD Player Rewards card? Assiniboia Downs has joined the HPI rewards and bonus program and the new program began Monday, Feb. 1. See details here. If you haven't received your new card in the mail call 204-885-3330 (ext. 225) to check on the status.

GREEDY CORNER: Breeders’ Cup pools are immense, of course, with lots of casual players joining seasoned bettors to push pools and often prices into the stratosphere. One superfecta win could set you up for a year. That’s what the “I won bigger” betting group is aiming for. Join like-minded players Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the Clubhouse plaza.
Yay! It’s Horseplayer Christmas! 

Tomorrow at 4:50 p.m. CT, while you’re sipping cherry vodka lemonade from your souvenir Breeders’ Cup glass, the first of 14 Breeders’ Cup races worth $31 million will fire out of the gate at Del Mar.

  • TOMORROW--FUTURE STARS FRIDAY: Five Breeders’ Cup races featuring 2-year-olds start at 4:50 p.m. CT. The undercard--races 1 to 5--begin at 1:55 p.m.
  • CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY: Nine ‘Cup races start at 2:05 p.m. CT. The undercard--races 1 to 3--begin at 12:15 p.m.
FREE PROGRAMS FOR FRIDAY AND SATURDAY are now available at the VLT cage at ASD and off-track at Pembina, Quest, Windsor, Green Brier and Rookies locations.

in the Terrace Dining Room where multiple TVs will be set up for all-day betting and dining call 204-885-3330

The dining feature on Breeders’ Cup Saturday will be a crispy buffalo chicken sandwich with coleslaw served all day (plus the regular menu). Note there’s Happy Hour from 3 to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to closing both days. And Friday is steak night and Saturday is certified Angus prime rib night, both served from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. for $24.95.
What horses do Kirt and Stretch like?

: Enjoy a cherry vodka lemonade in a souvenir Breeders’ Cup glass for $9.95 and keep the glass! Available both Breeders’ Cup days while supplies last.

Join the excitement and potential big payoffs of Breeders’ Cup by sharing in group tickets that will be put together by Larry and me at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on the Clubhouse plaza.

What are the BC picks of ASD handicappers Kirt and Stretch? Go to the ASD YouTube channel here to find out.

See top of Insider for betting bonuses

*       *       *
Betting edge: What races favour longshots or favourites?

races that longshots have dominated
races that favourites have dominated
most likely or least likely races to be won by a horse that won his last start


RACES 1 to 5:
The undercard. Five non-Breeders’ Cup races. First post 1:15 p.m.
RACE 6: Juvenile Turf 4:50 p.m. --
favs win
RACE 7: Juvenile Fillies
-- Bombs away. Average win price in six previous California BC races: $51. Won previous race: 65%.
RACE 8: Juvenile Fillies Turf --
$17 average price. Of six previous races at California tracks, two winners were Europeans, two came from Keeneland and one each from Belmont and Laurel. Won previous race: 77%.
RACE 9: Juvenile -- High $31 average price.
Won previous race: 65%.
RACE 10: Juvenile Turf --
$15 average price. Of six previous races in California, four were Europeans and two came from Belmont.
A pick-3 in races 6 to 8 might look something like this: 2 favs x ALL x 3 fillies who won her previous start  


RACES 1 to 3:
The undercard. Three non-Breeders’ Cup races. First post 12:15 p.m.
RACE 4: Fillies & Mares Sprint
2:05 p.m.-- Low-priced horses won five of the last six Breeders’ Cup races held in California. The exception was $135 horse at Del Mar in 2017.
RACE 5: Turf Sprint
-- $24 average price. Of six Cal races, two were won by Europeans, two from Belmont, one each from Santa and Woodbine. Won previous race: just 23%.
RACE 6: Dirt Mile --
$20 average price. Just 29% won their previous race.
RACE 7: Fillies & Mares Turf --
$18 average price. Of six Cal races, three were won by Europeans, and one from Belmont, Arlington Park and Keeneland. Won previous race: 36%.
RACE 8: Sprint --
$17 average price.
RACE 9: Mile (on the turf) --
$18 average price. Of six Cal races, FOUR came from Keeneland, one each from Europe and Woodbine. Won previous race: 43%.
RACE 10: Distaff -- Favs have won five of six
previous Cal races with prices from $5 to $9 except for one $19.80 price.
RACE 11: Turf --
$17 average price. Of six previous races at California tracks, two winners were Europeans, two came from Keeneland and one each from Belmont
RACE 12: Classic -- $13 average price

Wheel 3 Keeneland horses in race 9 x KEY x 4 best horses from Europe and Keeneland x 2 lower-priced Classic horses (3 x 1 x 4 x 2 = $24)

*       *       *
What horses are hot? Which ones are not?
(according to DRF Mike Welsch’s clocker reports)


  • Listen to Mike Welsch’s negatives on 8-5 Letruska
    Acclimate (20-1 Turf) -- “Galloped out as good as you’d want to see … for 1 1/8 miles!” (Note connections paid a supplement to get him into this race)
  • Mackinnon (8-1 Juvenile Turf) -- “Gallop-out caught my eye”
  • Hot Rod Charlie (4-1 Classic) -- “Not flashy but like the way he worked”
  • Casa Creed (15-1 Mile) -- “Big move”
  • Bella Sofia (5-2 Fillies & Mares Sprint) -- “Didn’t disappoint. Could give Gamine (3-5) a big fight”
  • Charmaine’s Mia (30-1 Turf Sprint) -- “Galloped out tremendously. Visually very impressive”
  • Clairiere (12-1 Distaff) -- “Just loaded”
  • Art Collector (8-1 Classic) -- “Looked good, going easily, solid”
  • Letruska (8-5 Distaff) -- “Surprised …. couldn’t stay with a 2-year-old who was drawing away. Not really what you want to see.”
  • Aloha West (8-1 Sprint) -- “Disappointed. Wanted to see more.”
  • Echo Zulu (4-5 Juvenile Fillies) -- “Noisy … not much energy”
See Mike’s daily Clocker Reports on YouTube. If you’re a serious player, these are a must.

*       *       *
Just a reminder about two important Insider betting angles

In turf races, look for horses that have been racing for the highest purses. This is a HUGE angle that has proven results through the years. Note that this info is not available in the DRF, only in the Equibase program which is available free (along with the DRF version, too.)

To quickly zero in on the contenders in Saturday’s races, add up the in-the-money finishes for each horse. A previous Insider showed that a $1 superfecta box of six horses with the most in-the-money finishes, a ticket costing $360, paid $36,000.

*       *       *
Betting minimums
Yay, there are 20-cent superfectas

In 2017, Del Mar’s superfecta minimum was $1 -- but in this year’s Breeders’ Cup races it’s 20-cents! That gives us a much wider latitude in playing a wager that usually pays off in the thousands of dollars. Here are the other bet minimums for Canadian players:
  • Win, place, show, doubles $2.00
  • Exactors and pick-3s: $1
  • Triactors, Super Hi-5s, pick-4s, pick-5s -- 60-cents
  • Pick-6: $2

A BIG SHOUT-OUT to the thousands of Insider readers who could have unsubscribed at any time--but didn’t. Thank you for your support.

to Assiniboia Downs and the Manitoba Jockey Club for giving me the opportunity to write about my favourite subject as part of a consulting contract that included designing ads, writing radio scripts and creating other promotions for almost 16 years. I also wrote the weekly At the Races column in the Canstar community news supplement in the Winnipeg Free Press during the live race season. Do you know the very first thing that management had me agree to? That I not wear cut-offs any more (my favourite wearing apparel for years). Lol.  

to those who work with horses, getting them ready to race and entertain us. They are the real heroes in this game. Horses need constant care; trainers, breeders and grooms need to be ready and able to deal with issues at all hours day and night. The pressure of weekly column-writing pales by comparison with the pressures on these care-givers to keep this game we love alive. That’s my biggest shout-out of all. Thank you to everyone who has made this their life’s work.

A final favourite betting memory
The day a mistaken call turned a little into a lot

It was a Saturday afternoon in the early 2000’s. I had just $32 in my pocket when I arrived at the track and thought -- hmm, instead of cashing a cheque, let’s see what I can do with this.

Careful wagers at Hawthorne and another track--a win wager, exactors, etc. turned the $32 into $120 when I decided to bet a pick-4 at Hastings Park. Problem was, my ticket would cost about $54 which, I thought, was too much for my bankroll.

So intense handicapping came up with a ticket 1 x 1 x 6 (all) x 1 for a total cost of $6. When I called out my ticket to the mutuel seller I inadvertently called the wrong number in the first leg. The horse was a $29 first-time starter. I cancelled the ticket and bought the correct one. Then I thought--it’s only $6, I’ll buy the ticket that had the first-time starter, too.

Well, the first-time starter won, then my $15 key won the second leg and, in the third leg in which I took “all,” the longest shot beat the prohibitive 3-5 favourite.

When the pick-4 prices came up for the payoffs going into the last leg, my ticket WAS THE ONLY LIVE ONE! I had keyed #1 which I thought could wire the field--which would win me the entire pool of $7,000. The least I would win was about $1,000 for having three of four correct.

You pretty much know where this is heading. #1 gets an easy lead and keeps widening. And, in cashing the ticket, I thought -- if I had had more money I would have bought the $54 ticket and not had the first-time starter--and would only have had three out of four.

Crazy how things sometimes work out, eh?
TOP 3 NFL PICKS by TravyFootball: Week 9

Bengals over Browns (Sunday noon): Just when you thought the Bengals were going to take that next step into the upper echelon of the AFC, they stumbled out of the gate last week, losing to the Jets. They have a nice rebound game against the suddenly-struggling Cleveland Browns. What works in the Bengals’ favour this week? Well, the Browns continue to put QB Baker Mayfield on the field despite the fact he has a torn labrum in his shoulder.  

Packers over Chiefs
(Sunday afternoon): The Packers head to Kansas City riding a six game win streak. Missing their top three receivers playing the Cardinals, they relied heavily on the running back duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. There’s nothing more appealing to an offense than seeing the Chiefs’ defense on their schedule. Maybe the Chiefs have just hit a rough spot or maybe teams have “figured them out.". If Patrick Mahomes has ANY chance to win this game, he has to stop turning the ball over. 

Rams over Titans
(Sunday night): Both of these teams had major events this week. The Rams acquired eight-time pro bowler and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller from the Broncos via trade, and the Titans unfortunately lost arguably the most dominant offensive player in the league, Derrick Henry, to a foot injury that will likely cost him the rest of the season. I don’t know how the Titans will replace his type of production but Ryan Tannehill is not the kind of quarterback that is going to win without a strong running game backing him up.


Hazel Bochinski (1942-2021)
BIG-HEARTED TRAINER, MOTHER OF FORMER LEADING RIDER, DIES: It’s with great sadness we hear of the death of Hazel Bochinski--a trainer at Assiniboia Downs from 1980 to 1995 and the mother of three-time ASD leading jockey, Brian Bochinski. She died of cancer at 78 on Vancouver Island last Thursday. She was a friend to many and went out of her way to be helpful. She was the first female trainer to win the Winnipeg Futurity in 1989 with Pick Sure. More than anything else she should be recognized for her hundreds of hours of research that went into producing a highly-detailed history of racing in Manitoba that appeared as a series in Manitoba Thoroughbred journals.

Do Winnipeggers know that such well-known streets as McDermot, Inkster and Bannatyne were named for racing stewards in the 1860s? Or that a day of racing in 1875 consisted of a flat, a trot, a hurdle and a scurry race (a race for buggies with two drivers being pulled by dual-harnessed ponies)? Jam-packed with such colourful detail, Hazel’s accounts ended with trainer legend A.E. “Bert” Blake’s horse, Royal Frolic, becoming the second Manitoba-bred horse to win the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs in 1993. Thank you for your great labour of love, Hazel. Manitoba’s racing world was lucky to have you. A Celebration of Life is being considered for the spring.

IT'S OFFICIAL -- WINNIPEG IS A SMART CITY: If anyone should do well playing Breeders’ Cup races, it should be people who live in Winnipeg. After all, Winnipeg has been honoured as the world’s 2021 Intelligent Community of the Year.” Let’s live up to that reputation!

Coming off a win last Saturday that increased bankrolls by 50 per cent PLUS free shares from an extremely generous Larry Liebrecht (he’s tapping into his $25K win two weeks ago to buy replacement shares for group members who lost that week), the “I won bigger” betting group is ready for serious play to win serious money this Saturday in Breeders’ Cup play. The objective is to capture a lucrative superfecta and maybe a pick-3 or two. Or? C’mon out to the Clubhouse plaza at 10:30 a.m. to share in the fun and, hopefully, the proceeds! (Assiniboia Downs is not involved.)

Hugo Dittfach (1936-2021)
FORMER JOCKEY HUGO DITTFACH PASSES AT 85: The name, Hugo Dittfach, seems synonymous with horse racing for many of us who are middle-aged or older--and now the Hall of Fame jockey is gone, at age 85. A German who spent three years in a Russian concentration camp, he came to Canada in the 1950s where his slight build launched him into a career he was very good at--until 1989. From western Canadian beginnings, he gravitated to Ontario where he won the Queen’s Plate in 1961 and the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie a record five times. A decade of training followed--with his biggest win coming in a Grade 3 stakes in 2004. He received the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award in 1991 for his contributions to the sport.
  • Today: Breeders’ Cup programs available free at ASD and at off-track locations including Quest, Pembina, Windsor, Green Brier and Rookies.
  • Tomorrow: Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar. Five BC races starting at 4:50 p.m. CT. See betting bonuses at top of Insider.
  • Saturday: Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar. Nine BC races starting at 2:05 p.m. CT. See betting bonuses at top of Insider.
  • Thursday, Nov. 11: Remembrance Day. Let us give thought to the millions of horses who gave their lives in the service of winning two World Wars.


I’m outta here. It’s been a slice!
Now let’s crush the ‘Cup! See you on the plaza Saturday at 10:30 a.m.


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